SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean students undertaking the College Scholastic Ability Test from 2021 will no longer be able to benefit from choosing Arabic as an easy way out, as a new education white paper has revealed government plans to reintroduce an absolute evaluation system to weed out those with little to no knowledge of the language choosing it to take advantage of the current assessment system.
The education white paper released today says that students taking the so-called national university entrance exam in four years, who are now in the third year of middle school, will no longer be able to take advantage of using the Arabic language exam to get ahead of others for merely dabbling in the rarely spoken language, a practice made popular by their predecessors.
According to the new education policy, exam takers from 2021 onward will be evaluated in absolute terms rather than being graded on a curve in second foreign languages, which refers to foreign languages apart from English in South Korea including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Vietnamese.
In 2005, when Arabic was first made available as an exam subject, only 531 students chose to study the language.
However, since the information that only a few people take the Arabic exam and that a relatively small amount of studying could yield a better grade spread like wildfire among exam takers, the number of Arabic students has steadily grown every year, reaching 52,626 and accounting for over 70 percent of all exam takers who undertook a second foreign language test last year.
With a significant number of ‘inbetweeners’ falling under one of nine scoring groups with little to no effort or academic difference and relying heavily on luck, the practice has even earned the unfortunate nickname of ‘Arabic Lotto’, so much so that getting a few more questions right than others could place some students in the second highest scoring group.
Given the fact that there are only six high schools in the country that offer Arabic language courses, it’s common knowledge that most Arabic exam takers either took an entry-level language course at a private academy or marked the answer sheet randomly, with only a small number of students who have lived in Arabic speaking countries in the past being the exception.
Education authorities, however, are hopeful that things are going to change with the new education reform.
“With the switch to an absolute evaluation system, we believe the problem of second foreign language learners who haven’t studied sufficiently flocking to take Arabic language for academic advantages will be remedied,” the Ministry of Education said.